Today is a special day here at WMMCM. It’s one of those rare times when the solar system seems to be joining in with the fun we’re having here in the continuing adventures of Roter käse what with Venus crossing the sun for the last time this century – and we’re only twelve years in! Yes, for today we have an intergalactically awful song to display for your enjoyment. Or not.
It was a huge hit of course. Lots of truly terrible songs become huge hits while lots of great songs, (and sometimes artists,) sit and linger on your shelves, long since forgotten except for that song that was playing the first time you danced with a member of the opposite sex at your prom way back in high school.
Well, this song certainly fits that bill.
Though I never danced to it and fortunately I’m not likely to in the future but, those a few years younger than myself who were still in high school in the summer of 1986 and, no doubt, hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions – of people trapped at the wedding reception of their closest friends have been abused by this song for decades now. A song that truly leaves me cold.
We now give you, Chris De Burgh and…
If ever there was a song that epitomises all the bad musical habits of the mid-1980′s, “Lady in Red” is it. De Burgh certainly sings with passion on this song. I suppose he should as he’s credited his wife as the inspiration for this perfect bit of Roter käse. I can understand why someone might like this song. It’s sweet and emotional and long enough for a good slow dance with a loved – or soon to be/hopefully – one. I get that.
What I don’t get, and never did get, is the silly warmed over synthetic drums overlaid by a cliched synthetic synthesizer while De Burgh swims through the mighty river of reverb that just very well may have been left behind by the ferryman he didn’t pay a few years before back when he was recording real songs.
It’s fairly rare when a song annoys me quite this much. It’s been twenty- six years since De Burgh released “Lady in Red,” and I think I dislike it more now than I did then.
Other than De Burgh’s vocals, everything about the song sounds and feel artificial. That seems to have been the intention. Given the technology of the day, the drums are played by a real drummer, the bass is played by a real bassist. The keyboards and synth are played by a real guy. Why then does everything feel so fake?
The drums and percussion are buried in reverb and delay, the bass is wallowing in so much chorus that is sounds like it was played on a keyboard. It wasn’t but, it sure sounds like they wanted it to sound like a keyboard bass. I’m more than a little familiar with the sounds of 80′s music of course; that’s when I was getting my feet wet in the analog recording studio techniques of the day. But, I don’t ever remember any session I worked on where the intention seemed to be to make everything sound bad. As in, fake.
By 1986 when “Lady in Red” was recorded and let loose on the world, the new wave sound was pretty much over but even in the thick of new wave all those bands that had keyboards and synths attached to their hips, were after new sounds and sonic experiences that were interesting, unusual or just strange. Depeche Mode, Echo and the Bunnymen, Bauhaus, Shriekback and more were taking electronic keyboards and synthesizers and other toys and making new sounds with them. Using them in a way that nobody had thought of before.
De Burgh took standard instruments and just made them sound - kind of bad.
Even De Burgh’s vocal is so overwrought it’s difficult to not give a little chuckle, I mean by the line; “This beauty by my side” it sounds like his head is about to explode.
“The lady in red is dancing with me, cheek to cheek,
There’s nobody here, it’s just you and me,
It’s where I want to be,
But I hardly know this beauty by my side,
I’ll never forget the way you look tonight.”
Sorry to all you Chris De Burgh fans out there but, there’s just no way I could take this song seriously. Ever.